France on edge as presidential vote looms

Le Pen has used the recent shooting to exploit her agenda as the French presidential election is expected to be held tomorrow

France on edge as presidential vote looms

World Bulletin / News Desk

France was on edge Saturday on the eve of its most unpredictable presidential election in decades, which will take place under heightened security after the killing of a policeman. 

ISIL claimed slaying of the officer on Paris' Champs Elysees avenue thrust questions of security to the fore of campaigning after nine months of relative calm. 

Analysts say Thursday's attack could shake up the four-way contest between far-right leader Marine Le Pen, centrist Emmanuel Macron, conservative Francois Fillon and Communist-backed firebrand Jean-Luc Melenchon.

The top two vote getters in Sunday's poll will head to a run-off on May 7.

Authorities in Paris have offered additional guards for hundreds of polling stations in the capital, which will come on top of an already major security plan across the country. 

"An extra guard or reinforcement of staff will be provided to any polling station that needs it," Paris town hall official Colombe Brossel said. 

On Sunday, around 50,000 police and 7,000 soldiers will be deployed to protect voters across France.

Until now, surveys showed the French to be more concerned about jobs and the economy than terrorism or security, though analysts warned Thursday's shooting could change that.

Le Pen has moved quickly to present herself as the strongest defender against extremists in a country scarred by a string of attacks that have claimed 239 lives since 2015.

 

The 48-year-old leader of the anti-immigration National Front (FN) called for France to "immediately" take back control of its borders from the European Union and deport all foreigners on a terror watchlist.

"This war against us is ceaseless and merciless," she said, accusing the Socialist government of a "cowardly" response to the threat.

Fillon and Macron also hastily convened televised briefings in which they vowed to protect the country.

"Some haven't taken the full measure of the evil," 63-year-old Fillon said, promising an "iron-fisted" approach.

Macron, a 39-year-old moderate whom Fillon has portrayed as too inexperienced for the top job, said France was paying for the intelligence jobs cuts made when Fillon was prime minister between 2007 and 2012.

Describing the Champs Elysees shooting as an attack on democracy, he urged voters: "Do not give in to fear."

Veteran left-winger Melenchon, 65, was the only one of the four to stick to his schedule.

A BVA poll conducted on Thursday and Friday showed Le Pen and Macron tied on 23 percent, ahead of Melenchon with 19.5 percent and Fillon on 19 percent.

Though the race has four main contenders, a total of 11 are in the race, most of whom are polling in the single digits.

 'Exploiting' attack  

The shooting came days after two men were arrested in Marseille on suspicion of planning an imminent attack and follows a series of deadly strikes around Europe in the past month, targeting Stockholm, London and the Saint Petersburg metro.

US President Donald Trump tweeted that the attack "will have a big effect" on the election.

Adelaide Zulfikarpasic of BVA pollsters said: "If it were to benefit someone that would clearly be Marine Le Pen who has dominated this issue throughout the campaign, or Francois Fillon."

Prime Minister Bernard Cazeneuve accused Le Pen of attempting to make political hay out of the killing, saying she was "seeking, as she does after every tragedy, to take advantage of it".

 

Güncelleme Tarihi: 22 Nisan 2017, 12:31
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